Low-Calorie Sweetened Beverages and Cardiometabolic Health: A Science Advisory From the American Heart Association

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Abstract

In the United States, 32% of beverages consumed by adults and 19% of beverages consumed by children in 2007 to 2010 contained low-calorie sweeteners (LCSs). Among all foods and beverages containing LCSs, beverages represent the largest proportion of LCS consumption worldwide. The term LCS includes the 6 high-intensity sweeteners currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and 2 additional high-intensity sweeteners for which the US Food and Drug Administration has issued no objection letters. Because of a lack of data on specific LCSs, this advisory does not distinguish among these LCSs. Furthermore, the advisory does not address foods sweetened with LCSs. This advisory reviews evidence from observational studies and clinical trials assessing the cardiometabolic outcomes of LCS beverages. It summarizes the positions of government agencies and other health organizations on LCS beverages and identifies research needs on the effects of LCS beverages on energy balance and cardiometabolic health. The use of LCS beverages may be an effective strategy to help control energy intake and promote weight loss. Nonetheless, there is a dearth of evidence on the potential adverse effects of LCS beverages relative to potential benefits. On the basis of the available evidence, the writing group concluded that, at this time, it is prudent to advise against prolonged consumption of LCS beverages by children. (Although water is the optimal beverage choice, children with diabetes mellitus who consume a balanced diet and closely monitor their blood glucose may be able to prevent excessive glucose excursions by substituting LCS beverages for sugar-sweetened beverages [SSBs] when needed.) For adults who are habitually high consumers of SSBs, the writing group concluded that LCS beverages may be a useful replacement strategy to reduce intake of SSBs. This approach may be particularly helpful for persons who are habituated to a sweet-tasting beverage and for whom water, at least initially, is an undesirable option. Encouragingly, self-reported consumption of both SSBs and LCS beverages has been declining in the United States, suggesting that it is feasible to reduce SSB intake without necessarily substituting LCS beverages for SSBs. Thus, the use of other alternatives to SSBs, with a focus on water (plain, carbonated, and unsweetened flavored), should be encouraged.

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